AP answers your questions on the news, from signing statements to Steve Jobs’ income

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ask AP: Signing statements, Steve Jobs’ income

How does Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs manage to get by on $1 a year — and without selling any Apple stock since 1997?

Curiosity about how Jobs pays the bills inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also find Ask AP on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

During the last Bush administration, the White House would post statements of how it interpreted bills passed by Congress. Often the text would seriously redefine the meaning of the legislation. Has this technique been used by the Obama White House?

Stephan Vertal

Forest Grove, Ore.

During his campaign for the White House, President Barack Obama was highly critical of his predecessor’s use of signing statements, which allowed President George W. Bush in many cases to circumvent Congress’ intent. Obama, a law professor and lawyer, never promised to eschew the practice, but pledged to make his use of the statements more transparent.

To that end, the White House says it has published the signing statements on its Web site, www.whitehouse.gov. A search of such statements turns up only a handful of instances; here are a few examples:

— One signing statement dealt with a supplemental spending bill. Obama said the law, as written, would take away his “constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations” because it would limit Obama’s options in dealing with the war in Afghanistan. In a June 26 statement, Obama said he would ignore those passages: “I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.”

— In March, when signing the public lands bill, Obama said he would not require the interior secretary to listen to U.S. House members’ recommendations for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission. Obama said in a March 30 statement that the secretary would consider representatives’ recommendations but would not be bound by them.

— In another spending bill, Obama again refused to have international negotiations or U.N. peacekeeping missions limited by the U.S. budget. He also refused to enforce Congress’ denial of salaries for administration employees who limit communications with lawmakers. And in the same March 11 statement, he said he would treat provisions of the spending bill — ones that required Congress’ approval before implementing specific expenditures or a budget format — as suggestions, not law.

Philip Elliott

Associated Press Writer


The AP recently reported that Steve Jobs took a $1 salary in 2009. In the same story, it is also indicated that he hasn’t cashed in any of his Apple stock since 1997. The question remains: How does the guy maintain a lavish lifestyle? Where does his money come from?

Justin Kase Conder

Fresno, Calif.

Apple Inc. won’t let us peek into Steve Jobs’ personal bank account, so we’re going to have to rely on some facts and some educated guesses to answer this one.

Apple went public in 1980. From then to when Jobs was forced to resign in 1985, he was likely paid a salary and may have sold some stock. The Associated Press reported that in the summer of 1985, Jobs sold about $14 million worth of Apple shares.

So one guess is that Jobs hired a savvy money manager to invest at least some of those earnings. Between 1985 and today, the S&P 500 has more than quintupled. The Nasdaq has increased nearly sevenfold.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, and has been paid $1 a year since 1998. He currently owns about $1.2 billion worth of Apple stock.

Jobs also holds $4.4 billion worth of Walt Disney Co. stock, which he received when he sold Pixar Animation Studios to Disney in 2006. Disney pays investors an annual dividend of 35 cents per share. For Jobs, who has about 138 million shares, that comes out to about $48 million a year.

Jessica Mintz

AP Technology Writer


I have a couple of credit cards with balances that I have not used for several months. I make monthly payments — more than the minimum and always on time. I am concerned about the new credit card rule that says the credit card companies can charge a fee for inactivity.

Does “activity” mean the card has to be used to make a purchase? Will only making a payment be considered “activity”? Would it be best to close these accounts now?

Rhonda Hopkins

Norfolk, Neb.


Inactivity fees on credit cards are still relatively rare. But analysts say they could become more commonplace as banks struggle to boost profits amid new regulations.

That said, there’s no industrywide definition of what counts as activity on a credit card. So you’ll need to contact your bank to ask about the specific terms.

At Fifth Third Bank, for example, a payment counts. That means that if you were making regular payments on your balance, you wouldn’t incur the bank’s new $19 fee (for accounts that are inactive for 12 months).

If your bank introduces an inactivity fee and says you need to use your card to avoid it, you can always close the account and continue chipping away at the balance. Banks sometimes charge a “closed account” fee, though. At Fifth Third, for example, it’s $2.50 a month.

Closing an account could also hurt your credit score. One of the factors in determining your score is your credit utilization, or your debt-to-credit ratio. Closing an account would lower your credit line, and drive up your utilization ratio.

Candice Choi

AP Personal Finance Writer

New York

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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